Another way to make the subject darker is to increase shutter speed. The longer a camera’s shutter is open, the more light gets in. With a faster shutter speed, a camera can let in light from a bright source like a blue sky, sunset, or studio lighting. But it won’t have the opportunity to let in the lesser amount of light on the backlit subject. The background will be bright and visible, and the subject will be in silhouette.
Post-processing for silhouette photography.
Sometimes the best way to get an image of a perfectly dark silhouette and bright background is to combine two images or to correct an image in post-production. Bracketing in photography refers to taking several pictures of the same subject with different camera settings. With silhouette photography, combining different images of the background and subject can yield the bright background and dark subject you’re looking for.
Still, even a properly exposed silhouette can look murky or blurred around the edges. “The image can be ruined if the highlights are all blown out,” says Budd. You’ll often need to touch up a few things, especially around the edges of the silhouette. “Yes, we all want to shoot everything perfect in camera, but Adobe is in business because we don’t,” says Carlson. “Especially with silhouettes.” Combine images or blacking out subjects so they look more properly silhouetted.
Even if you don’t change anything, though, it’s important to double-check.
“Your silhouette may not be dark enough. On your screen it may look dark, but if your screen isn’t calibrated right, it won’t be this nice, iconic picture of a person,” says Carlson. “It helps to look at the histogram and make sure those blacks are really black.” Don’t just trust your eyes. When you need something to be entirely black, look at the data in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Photoshop and see how it will show up on different screens or in physical media.
Creating iconic images with silhouettes.
Silhouettes are evocative. They’re intriguing and can be a good way to put human figures in a landscape shot while still emphasizing the setting, rather than human figure. If you take a photo of a major landmark and want to show people in relation to it, a shot of silhouetted figures instead of fully lit figures can give a sense of human scale and provide a blank space for viewers to place themselves.